Sex and KFC

November 27, 2007

We can no longer trust our major media to report the news properly any more because of corporate interference trying to sell us hot pants and fast food which, you would think, are fairly mutually exclusive items*- if we’re lucky. The other area where it affects us heavily is medicine. It was pointed out long ago by concerned research scientists that if you put combating disease in the hands of profit-oriented companies alone without having government labs involved what you will get is only treatments- not cures. A cure, after all, is only for Christmas- a treatment is for life.

The first truly awful science of my generation was the way AIDS was handled in the 80’s. Cargo-cult science from a doctor of dubious repute connected a retrovirus to a syndrome and transmission to sex and we were told, with the usual enthusiasm of the tabloid media, of the bodies piled high on the streets come the year 2000. Sex sells. Sex kills. Those alive, paying attention and not out shopping for hot pants holding a bucket of KFC would have caught, at the time, the BBC Panorama documentary which questioned the science and pointed out that the odds on contracting the HIV retrovirus, should it exist, from sex was thousands to one**. The threat increased to one in hundreds only if both partners had an open wound on their genitalia. I personally lack the commitment to have sex hundreds of time with my penis bleeding profusely and even if I did I lack the charm, I feel, to talk another person into rigorous sex whilst suffering from severe blood loss.

Lunatic fringe thinker, I, joined only by Nicholas Regush of ABC News, Harpers, a few Nobel Prize winners for chemistry and around ten thousand scientists outside the USA whose income is not dependant on companies making billions from HIV treatments in thinking there is some less than robust thinking here are now re-joined by the BBC.

The method that has been proposed (but never proved) by which the retrovirus kills our T-cells has as much credibility as a trial lawyer representing OJ Simpson or Robert Downey Jnr. according to, for all my dissing Americans, a study led by Emory University in Atlanta. In reporting the story the Beeb, though, fearful of the American treatment of the English language, decided to get a quote from a trustworthy British scientist at Imperial College, Cambridge. Professor Jaroslav (very British) Stark said: “Scientists have never had a full understanding of the processes by which T helper cells are depleted in HIV, and therefore they’ve been unable to fully explain why HIV destroys the body’s supply of these cells at such a slow rate. Our new interdisciplinary research has thrown serious doubt on one popular theory of how HIV affects these cells, and means that further studies are required to understand the mechanism behind HIV’s distinctive slow process of cellular destruction.”

What’s worrying is this: they decided HIV causes AIDS by killing T-cells without ever understanding or proving the process by which it happens. Then how do you know that HIV is doing it, exactly? There is a word for this kind of thing: it is called a guess. Guessing, as you may conclude, is not great science. Guessing is what loses you huge amounts of money at the track. Guessing is what you do when you try and win the lottery. Guessing is not something you want from, say, a person packing your parachute, deciding on the length of your bungee cord or sending you to a foreign country to find weapons of mass destruction. So filling yourself with toxic chemicals to kill a retrovirus which may be sitting around, chilling, and generally showing the activity and work ethic of a procrastinating grandma on a weeks break in Torremelinos based on a guess may be considered to be less than smart.

The problem is the way we demand answers from medicine. Other sciences get to dabble around and have fun trying to make the universe accidentally fold up or putting new elements together to see how big a bang we can get. We, as individuals, don’t really care so we place no pressure on them. But we want to be cured of every tiny ill. Since none of us really believe in heaven any more we are afraid of death, otherwise we would let ourselves be “taken” at the first opportunity. Lying there, measle-infected, “See God,” we could utter, “it’s not suicide- just your will. See you in a minute- put my sexy birds on ice and pour me a Martini.” So we believe in something new: we have faith in medicine. Which is dumb. Medicine is reason and evidence. And profit. When we substitute reason and evidence for faith we end up with faith and prophet. Possibly one called Mohamed, or Jesus, or Dave The Amazing Faith healer. Or GlaxoSmithKline.

It is really our fault. Our brain seeks conclusions to problems and it seeks them quickly. We are designed to suffer anxiety about the unknown because early humans who were not quick to decide the best option when faced with, say, a large and pretty kitty with sharp teeth and savage claws, never got to decide anything ever again… least of all who to accidentally get pregnant at the prom.

So we get betrayed, every day, by our Selves. Our Selves are not something to be trusted. They will fuck with us at every given opportunity making us think our hair looks bad, our hot-pants don’t suit us and make us buy another bucket of comfort-KFC. We tend to believe what will make us happy and accepted rather than what is inconvenient and, quite possibly, true.

One of those things is: you’re going to die. Get over it. Stop worrying about it. Get laid. And use a condom not because you think you’re going to die from some random infection but because you’re considerate, because you are careful, and because if you have kids they will want you to send them to school and college and will want to borrow your car- which will eat into your drinking money and destroy your social life. Who wants that? Honestly.

*- bridged by the diet supplement market.

**- “Male-to-female transmission was approximately eight times more efficient than female-to-male transmission …The constant per-contact infectivity for male-to-female transmission was estimated to be 0.0009 [Meaning that female-to-male would be 0.00001125 or about 1/10,000]…We observed no seroconversions after entry into the study…No transmission occurred among the 25% of couples who did not use their condoms consistently, nor among the 47 couples who intermittently practiced unsafe sex during the entire duration of follow-up. This evidence argues for low infectivity in the absence of either needle sharing and/or other cofactors” Padian NS et al. Heterosexual Transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Northern California: Results from a Ten-Year Study. Am J Epidemiol. 1997 Aug;146(4):350-7

http://www.aras.ab.ca/

With all our world leaders jostling with one another to explain how safe they are going to make us we have ended up with some pretty bloody stupid airport security around the world in the last few years*.

The fact is that any team of 5 people determined enough and willing to sacrifice their lives can bring down an aircraft without bringing a single, solitary weapon on board. De-pressurizing an aeroplane in just the right way is easy and enough and all you have to do for the flimsy thing to go pffffft and leave a whole lot of people regretting that they are now tied to an extremely heavy seat shortening their life span by a good minute or so.

If after that little revelation you’re too paranoid to get in aircraft that means (1) that you have an appalling ability to assess and compare dangers and (2) we get to keep a glacier for another minute and three seconds and I get another four days before I have to start building anti- flood barriers around my house and, well, every bit helps.

But if you genuinely want top notch security in airports, the best in the world, for free, you sell gambling rights, right there in the departure lounges, to top Casino companies. Everyone knows that Casinos, to protect their cash, have the very best security in the whole world. Make them apply that knowledge in defending your planes and you will be far better off than you are with 50c an hour security guards trying to stick their fingers up your butt while you turn on your laptop computer. And their tax is making sure nothing bad happens- or they lose their contract and investment.

No more missing luggage, either. Anyone trying to nick your iPod from your suitcase will find themselves at the bottom of a nearby river and you, after having the iPod replaced, will have a free three night stay in a suite at one of their casino hotels. Hookers and cocaine an optional extra.

These people know how to protect their assets. You do not have to trust them- just their motivations.

*- You cannot make a bomb on a plane using liquids. You just cannot. You blow your hands off/ burn them beyond use long before you can create anything damaging. You can easily get a laptop computer to turn on and boot up with loads of space available inside it for all sorts of dodgy shit that you CAN blow an aeroplane up with.